This is an excerpt from our white paper, Agile Learning Design for Beginners: Designing Learning at the Speed of Change. Here is a section on managing the work:
Wanting to work incrementally, iteratively, and collaboratively is all well and good, but at some point you have to manage the work and timeline.
Agile does not mean there isn’t any planning, but rather that planning is different. Instead of creating one plan at the beginning and using your time and energy trying to hold everyone to that plan (which never works), we spend our time identifying what work is a value-add and what can be worked on based on priorities and availability.How you manage that work is flexible and can be done using several different methods. Two that we’ve chosen to use at BLP include Kanban and Scrum.
Using Kanban to Pull Work to Team
Kanban is a methodology to control the amount of work that the team is working on at any given time. It was created at Toyota to help maintain a consistent amount of work that a team can handle at any given time. In Kanban, the team pulls work onto their plates. The team also has set work in progress (WIP) limits that tell the team and the people they work with how much work they can do at any given time. When done correctly, the team can keep the pace of their work in progress limits indefinitely.
BLP has been using the Kanban approach for our client projects. Because each project team has multiple clients and projects going on at any given time, using a Scrum type method where we try to plan out a two week period is not workable.Kanban works really well for our project teams because it allows us to pull work into our workstream, especially when existing projects hit snags or delays.
Below is an example of a physical Kanban board our team used. Having a visual representation of what’s going on helps the team stay focused and know exactly what everyone is doing when.
What About Scrum?
By Steven Boller, Marketing Director
Scrum is the methodology most people think of when they hear “agile.” At BLP, we use Scrum on our product development team. The marketing team also uses its own variation of Scrum.
The “Product Dev” team decided on Scrum because they needed a way to rapidly evolve our Knowledge Guru® product. Scrum is more focused on the user of a product than the process for creating it. Like Kanban, it allows teams to maximize resources and get everyone working together. In Scrum, tasks are completed in short sprints of 1-4 weeks. Every sprint produces a working version of the product, and tasks are based on “user stories.” (Example: Learners will be able to play an interactive game about using widget XYZ). The flow of work is managed with a backlog of tasks that will be completed in the future but have not been assigned. At the conclusion of each sprint, the Product Dev team conducts a sprint review to verify completion of previous stories and pull stories from the backlog to be completed in the next sprint.
Each story is assigned “points” based on how long it should take to complete. In our system, one point equals one day of work. Every team member has a certain number of story points they can complete in a given sprint, which controls the workload.
While the sprint reviews and planning meetings are time consuming, the planning of work has to be done eventually, anyway. Scrum makes the process more efficient and intentional. The team has been pleased with Scrum so far and cannot imagine going back.
“Our time is being used so much more effectively. Scrum holds us all accountable for doing our jobs. Because work is now done in two week intervals, we have the flexibility to allow priorities to change. Agile has made it possible to complete major tasks like adding SCORM to Knowledge Guru, something that was not on our roadmap just a few months earlier. This would have been very difficult with an ADDIE or “Waterfall” methodology.”
–Sharon Boller, President and Chief Product Officer
Consider whether Kanban, Scrum, or a combination of the two make the most sense for your team.